Water from Stone: The Story of Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve by Jeffrey Greene
San Antonio, where I went to high school and college, sits atop the Edwards Aquifer, the underground water source for most of the surrounding area. Though we never went into drought conditions, water rationing was common and still is today, with car washing and yard watering monitored and banned during tight water times.
Water from Stone describes a land reclamation project in Blanco County, which provides a path for land and water reclamation for not only the Texas Hill Country but other areas of the world as well. The story of the force behind this effort, J. David Bamberger, co-founder of Church’s Fried Chicken (also a San Antonio hometown product!) is intertwined with a description of the Selah Ranch where the reclamation project has been put into action over many years and several thousand acres.
The ranch sits on several thousand acres in Blanco County, west of Austin and north of San Antonio. Described multiple times in the book as the worst parcel of land in Texas, the book contains several stories detailing how Bamberger renewed the land, first removing the water wasting cedar trees and replacing them with Savannah grasses, some of which were purchased but many of which we’re reclaimed through cost effective means. The lessons in these stories are that some of these strategies could be replicated by anyone, regardless of the amount of land or the funding.
The book also details other conservational efforts, such as:
– the breeding and re-population of the endangered scimitar horned oryx, including the technical and political trials of doing so; the results were seventy or so oryx on display at Selah;
– the building of a large man-made bat cave at the ranch, which now houses several thousand Mexican bats;
– efforts to regrow the Endangered Texas Snowbell.
The material in the book is told in anecdotes like short story form, and the subject would be an excellent one for a more detailed educational book. The ranch provides Land Stewardship Workshops which I imagine would make excellent material for an instructional book.